Small, waterproof digital camera for the outdoors?

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Default NG ID, Apr 6, 2006.

  1. Hi,

    I'd like to buy a small, waterproof digital camera for camping and
    backpacking. I'm not planning to dive with it, but it's likely to get
    wet even in a case, and it needs to be robust as it'll be attacked to
    a rucksack.

    Essentials are:

    - it must take shop-bought batteries, as I'll be taking it on long
    trips with no access to a charger, and
    - it needs to be able to take good close-up pictures of flowers,
    insects and small stuff like that.

    I've currently got a Canon A95 which seems very nice, but it's a bit
    too big and heavy to fit easily onto my rucksack.

    I'm no photography expert, but I'd like to be able to use manual
    settings (and learn to use them) so I'm not looking for a basic
    point-and-shoot. I take a lot of photos when I'm walking, and take the
    time to try to compose them well, so I'd like something that can
    produce good pictures.

    I've seen references to the Pentax Optio, and also to an Olympus, but
    I don't really know which ones to look at.

    Help would be much appreciated.

    Default NG ID, Apr 6, 2006
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  2. Default NG ID

    Charlie Choc Guest

    I have an Optio WP I carry when fly fishing. It's a great little camera but it
    takes proprietary batteries.
    Charlie Choc, Apr 6, 2006
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  3. Default NG ID

    SMS Guest


    There are no good waterproof cameras that take AA or AAA batteries.

    Sony had the DSC-U60, but it's only 2 megapixels. It takes AAA
    batteries. See ""

    For backpacking, with no access to a charger, it's better to get a
    camera with Li-Ion batteries. They are lighter, more energy dense, don't
    self-discharge, and work better in cold temperatures. You can't buy AA
    cells _or_ Li-Ion proprietary batteries out in the back-country.

    You might want to bring along a little solar charger as well.
    SMS, Apr 6, 2006
  4. Default NG ID

    Matt Ion Guest

    I was going to suggest the solar charger as well... Canadian Tire up
    here in the Great White North carries several different ones, including
    a flexible one designed to hang on your backpack to charge things while
    you're hiking.

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    Matt Ion, Apr 6, 2006
  5. Default NG ID

    SMS Guest

    It's still a lot to carry. Considering that you can get hundreds of
    pictures from a single battery pack, especially outdoors where you're
    not using the flash, it'd have to be a very long trip away from a home
    or car to justify carrying all that stuff, rather than a couple of
    inexpensive battery packs (the LI40B after-market battery packs for the
    Olympus 720SW are only $11.50 each when you buy two). Two bad the
    Olympus 720SW doesn't have an optical viewfinder, as not using the LCD
    all the time, would increase the number of shots per battery.

    Spending $150 on a flexible solar panel, and another $15 on a 12 volt
    charger, and adding two pounds of weight, is really unacceptable for
    SMS, Apr 6, 2006
  6. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    You've really outdone yourself. First you suggest using a solar
    charger. Then Matt agrees with you, recommending it as well.
    Finally you reverse directions and say that it's a lot to carry.
    Why, we wonder . . .

    Oh, yes, you slipped. This gave you another opportunity to shill
    for Li-Ion batteries by making an absurd comparison between a couple
    of batteries (for an as yet nonexistent camera) and a quite heavy
    solar charger kit. But compare those Li-Ion batteries that are good
    for several hundred shots with what the OP can get with what he
    already has. The A95 can get up to 500 shots from cheap alkaline
    batteries and well over 1000 shots from NiMH AA batteries. Use
    Lithium AAs instead and the weight goes down and the number of shots
    goes even further up, beyond 2000 shots per set. If anything should
    be considered unacceptable, it would be taking your advice. <g>
    ASAAR, Apr 6, 2006
  7. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    You may want to reconsider getting another camera. The A95 isn't
    very heavy, so a smaller camera will probably not save more than a
    few ounces. For that, you'll pay several hundred dollars, and will
    probably have to give up the A95's rotating LCD, which can be very
    useful for taking closeups of flowers, especially if they're at
    ground level. With a bit of ingenuity you could buy or make up a
    waterproof case for it and find a way to attach it to your rucksack.

    Somewhat similar to Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers, a brand
    named Lock&Lock makes airtight and watertight containers that have a
    gasket and locking levers and are very inexpensive. I've bought
    some from a local Pathmark supermarket as well as K-Mart. The list
    a URL as With some added foam padding, it
    would provide very good "stumble" protection for the camera. Less
    well protected but almost as waterproof would be a cheap zippered
    nylon bag, with or without pockets, and a small supply of ziplock
    bags to keep the camera dry. Most convenient, though, would be
    something like a fanny-pack, rotated 180 degrees (perhaps some are
    sold as "tummy-packs"?). You'd have no problem getting the camera
    out of the pack, and could even do it while continuing to hike with
    the rucksack on your back.

    I know that you're trying to minimize weight, but consider adding
    a small, lightweight tripod. It may help quite a bit with your
    closeups. Also (if you aren't already aware), the A95 gets pretty
    good life from its batteries. Not as good as the A610, but still
    pretty good. If you use the optical viewfinder, you should be able
    to get about 500 shots from alkaline AAs. How many shots do you
    plan on taking during your longest trip - would it be in the
    hundreds or thousands of shots? Not knowing this I can't recommend
    NiMH batteries, even though they'd probably last for more than 1000
    shots when fully charged. An alternate possibility would be lithium
    AA cells. They're more expensive than alkalines, but they have
    several real advantages. They weigh much less and last far longer,
    probably being good for well over 2000 shots per set. These numbers
    would go down quite a bit if you use the LCD to compose pictures and
    also use the flash a lot.

    I believe that these use rechargeable Li-Ion batteries, so if you
    can't use a charger on your trip, you'd have to buy a number of
    extra rechargeable batteries. If you'll be taking thousands of
    shots, the extra weight of so many batteries would probably make
    their total weight exceed that of your A95. With the A95, it might
    be possible to only plan to buy an extra set of alkalines every
    couple of days. And if you start the trip with a couple of sets of
    lightweight lithium AA batteries, they might well last the entire
    trip, and you wouldn't have to worry about chargers and recharging.
    ASAAR, Apr 6, 2006
  8. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    Interesting observation, since you have no idea how long the "long
    trips" will be, nor how many shots or batteries might be needed.
    There are people in this newsgroup that go on trips of a week or two
    and take many thousands of shots. That could require a dozen or
    more rechargeable Li-Ion batteries as there wouldn't be any access
    to a charger.

    To rule out AA cells (your favorite whipping boy) you've also
    invented facts that contradict what the OP stated. He's not going
    on an extended trip into the wilderness. All he said was that he'll
    be backpacking, and doesn't want to carry a lot of weight. If his
    A95 is too heavy, you can be sure that carrying enough food and
    water for a long trip would be out of the question. So he's
    probably doing what I've done on more than one occasion. Going
    backpacking where you're probably never more than 5 or 10 miles from
    a little shop/gas station/general store where AA batteries are
    always available, and where one can get a meal that doesn't have to
    be carried. It's amusing how your extreme assumptions always are
    needed to support buying Li-Ion batteries. :)

    You can also rule out the need for one of Li-Ion's advantages, use
    in very cold weather (and for which lithium AA batteries are far
    better anyway). Why, you ask? Because the camera needs protection
    from water. If it's not cold enough for the water to have been
    transformed into ice, even alkaline batteries will do.

    Most Li-Ion chargers are A.C. powered, so you'd also need an
    inverter, and due to inefficiencies in conversion, the solar panel
    would probably need to supply quite a bit more than 500ma to the
    inverter. Then it would also help if the trip was when the sun is
    bright and the sky is cloud free. As the OP will be taking pictures
    of flowers and insects, one might assume that the trip is more
    likely to be in a location that doesn't have good access to
    sunlight, such as in the woods (for example, most of the Appalachian
    trail) or a rain forest and not where sunlight might be abundant,
    such as the Mojave desert or a WalMart parking lot. Which do you
    think would be more likely, especially given that the OP would like
    the camera to be waterproof, as it's likely to get wet?

    And as the solar panels really should be properly oriented, they
    probably wouldn't be used while hiking, but during the rest stops.
    Oh, wait. You said in your other message that a solar charger would
    weigh a couple of pounds. If that much weight is tolerable (it's
    not, according to the OP) enough AA batteries could be carried to
    last months, if not years.
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
  9. Default NG ID

    Charlie Choc Guest

    The battery for my Optio WP weighs less than 1 oz. FWIW
    Charlie Choc, Apr 7, 2006
  10. Default NG ID

    m Ransley Guest

    AA Nimh are cheaper than an extra propritary L-ion pack, Even alkaline
    aa can be used in a pinch. Sony makes an underwater casing for some of
    its cameras, im sure it would help for abuse also, but many of their new
    models are L-ion. I personaly like AA, they are cheap, available
    anywhere, in a pinch Alkalines work, and you are not raped-gouged on the
    outragous price you will pay to replace the propritary pack, if you can
    even get them when you need them.
    m Ransley, Apr 7, 2006
  11. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    And as I said, many of them, added to the weight of a small camera
    such as your Optio WP will weight more than the Canon A95. How many
    shots does the Optio WP get per charge? For the purpose of this
    argument, assume 300 (it could be more, it could be less). We don't
    know how many pictures will be taken. If it's 2000, then you'd need
    to take along 7 batteries. If it's 4000 shots, you'd need 13
    batteries. How much would the Optio then weigh with 7 batteries?
    How much with 13? The A95, btw, weighs only 235 grams, and it
    should be able to take up to 4000 shots with only two sets of
    lithium AA batteries. One in the camera, and another backup set, if
    needed. And the Canon A95 probably takes better pictures than the
    Optio WP, as long as it doesn't get too waterlogged. :)
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
  12. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    There's nothing to suppose, really. I spoke only for the A95, and
    that's the camera that the OP already has, not an S1 IS, and it gets
    much better battery life from alkalines than the S1 IS. Are you
    sure that the 400 figure is for NiMH using the LCD? If so, that's
    not bad, since the A95 is only rated for 500.

    Here you're mistaken. Lithium cells usually last at least twice
    as long as alkalines, usually longer, depending on the device. The
    ones that have really low internal resistance should be the CR-V3
    battery packs. Standard AA lithium batteries have a higher internal
    resistance, but I believe that they're the ones that work best if
    extremely cold temperatures, down to 40 deg. below zero. I don't
    think that the A95 is designed to accept CR-V3s.
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
  13. Default NG ID

    Matt Ion Guest

    If an extra 10oz. or so it a "lot" you should be taking a cab instead of
    Did you read the original post? The OP is going out into the middle of
    nowhere on an extended hiking trip. It IS a "very long trip away from
    home or car".

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    Matt Ion, Apr 7, 2006
  14. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    I've seen the Energizer data sheets, but despite the similar mAh
    ratings, in practice the lithiums last far longer than alkalines.
    With a higher internal resistance, alkalines should be at a
    disadvantage with high current devices compared with lithium
    batteries, and differences in battery life should be minimized with
    low current devices. In several old Palm PDAs that use AAA
    batteries and have a fairly low current drain, a pair of alkalines
    normally last between 40 and 45 hours. Lithium AAAs on the other
    hand last more than 100 hours. When the alkalines would need to be
    replaced, the voltages per cell would be about 1.05 v., and there
    would still be a considerable amount of untapped energy left in the
    batteries. With NiMH batteries, with their flatter voltage curve at
    that voltage point they would be nearly exhausted, so with NiMH and
    alkaline batteries of comparable capacity, the NiMH would last much

    I don't recall the voltage characteristics of lithium cells, but
    if as with NiMH they also have a flatter curve and deliver most of
    their energy at higher voltages, that would explain why they last
    much longer than alkalines. But this would only be true for digital
    devices that have relatively high turn-off voltages. For low
    current analog devices they might all have similar battery lives.
    An example would be old analog transistor radios. Most of the ones
    I've tested perform well (at moderate to low volume) until the
    per/cell voltages start approaching 0.3 to 0.4 volts, which is far
    lower than almost all digital radios will tolerate. The same should
    be true for digital cameras. When the batteries need to be
    replaced, NiMH (and presumably lithium) would have little energy
    remaining. But the alkaline batteries that no longer have
    sufficient voltage to operate the cameras will, if placed in an
    analog radio, continue to be useful for many hours. Depending on
    the radio, this could be as much as another hundred hours or more.
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
  15. Default NG ID

    Charlie Choc Guest

    I don't have an A95 so I have no idea about relative picture quality, and I have
    no agenda regarding small camera choice, I was simply stating how much the Optio
    WP battery weighed.
    Charlie Choc, Apr 7, 2006
  16. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    I realize that. But by not elaborating on why you simply stated
    the battery's weight (without even mentioning the camera's weight),
    and then (as in your most recent reply) only include a non-relevant
    quote having nothing to do with weight, you pretty much confirmed my
    reason for elaborating on your first reply. It had nothing to do
    with whether you do or don't have an agenda. I'll assume that you
    don't, but you know what they say about those that assume . . . :)
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
  17. Default NG ID

    Charlie Choc Guest

    You stated that the weight of the extra batteries would exceed the weight of the
    camera, I was simply providing you with a data point (figuring you already knew
    the weight of the camera), and I quoted the part of your post I was replying to.
    FWIW, the Optio WP weighs 135g with battery and card, 120g without
    ( Since the A95
    weighs 335g with batteries
    ( it looks like one
    could carry an Optio and a lot of spare batteries and still weigh less than the
    A95 with no spares. It would certainly be easier to buy spare AA batteries if
    your hikes took you by convenience stores, though.
    Again, I quoted the part of your post I was replying to. If picture quality
    wasn't relevant then why mention it in your post? <g>

    Also, the OP stated the A95 was too bulky - eliminating that camera from
    consideration, and that they wanted AA batteries - which eliminates the Optio WP
    from consideration, so none of this really makes any difference.
    Charlie Choc, Apr 7, 2006
  18. Default NG ID

    SMS Guest

    He stated that he needs "shop-bought" batteries, implying that he will,
    at times, be at a place where he can buy batteries. If it were purely an
    extended backpacking trip where batteries are not available, then he'd
    definitely want Li-Ion rechargeables, as they are lighter, more energy
    dense, and don't suffer from self-discharge or decreased capacity in
    cold weather.

    A solar set-up that is sufficient to charge the battery in a reasonable
    time is going to weigh a lot more than ten ounces. Figure two pounds,
    which is a tremendous amount of additional weight when back-packing. A
    few Li-Ion packs would be sufficient for a thousand or so shots, and
    they don't cost much more than a set of four AA NiMH cells (and less
    than AA Lithium cells).

    There is one camera that might do what he wants with AA cells, the
    Pentax - Optio Water-Resistant 3.2MP Digital Camera, which is
    discontinued, but available at Best Buy ("").
    The 4 megapixel version is apparently not available anywhere anymore.
    This camera is not waterproof, but "water-resistant."

    Another option, besides solar, is something like this

    It also weighs two pounds, but it at least doubles as a flashlight.

    Of course there is always the option of using a film camera (gasp) like
    many of us did in our backpacking days (Olympus XA was the backpacking
    camera of choice).
    SMS, Apr 7, 2006
  19. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    I've found the NiMH point to be closer to 1.0v, but never used
    precise calibrated meters, so you may be right. But alkalines don't
    drop precipitously at 1.1v. Their precipitous drop starts much
    closer to 1.5v. <g> Really - give me some alkalines that measure
    any voltage between 1.0 and 0.5 volts under a light load and they'll
    continue operating for a *long* time. By "light load", I'm thinking
    of something between 15ma and 30ma for AA cells, which is sufficient
    to play a radio at a very listenable volume.

    That may be true (I don't have much experience testing lithium
    cells, either primary or secondary). But the same is said for NiMH
    and from personal experience I've found it to *not* be true. Yes,
    both NiMH and NiCad batteries have a relatively flat voltage
    discharge curve, but it appears to be quite linear. Where I've seen
    this is with a Sangean ATS-909 portable radio (aka Radio Shack
    DX-398) The Sangean version is still available but the DX-398 has
    been discontinued by RS for at least 2 years. It has a 14 segment
    battery meter that is perfectly calibrated for NiCad/NiMH batteries.
    When fully charged and just out of the charger, they cause about 13
    segments to display. As the radio is used (at least at the volume I
    use), it takes close to a couple of hours for each successive
    segment to extinguish. The last segment doesn't remain lit as long,
    maybe 15 minutes. When all segments disappear, the radio will power
    off within a minute or two. The radio uses 4 AA cells, btw. None
    of this was mentioned in the manual, but from testing a mix of
    several versions from Sangean and RS, they all operate similarly.
    I'd love for my camera to have a similar battery indicator, as it
    would be extremely accurate, and wouldn't rely on the "smart"
    technology that's used in some Li-Ion batteries that can sometimes
    get confused and show inaccurate "time remaining" values.

    I had a small portable TV that got very little use for the same
    reason. It went through its 4 AA cells far too quickly. At the
    time, rechargeable batteries weren't practical as NiMH batteries
    weren't yet available, and NiCads provided only 450 mAh, soon to
    soar to the heights of 600 or 650 mAh. I'll have to dig it out of
    its hiding place, as current 2500 mAh cells should be quite useable,
    if it still works. Thanks for the reminder. :)
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
  20. Default NG ID

    ASAAR Guest

    Then why (as I already pointed out), was your first response "You
    can't buy AA cells _or_ Li-Ion proprietary batteries out in the
    back-country."? Oh yes, once again a bogus argument gave you the
    opportunity to recommend stocking up on multiple Li-Ion batteries,
    even though you had no way of knowing if the length of the trip
    would require one or several dozen batteries.

    Agreed. But your first response, "You might want to bring along a
    little solar charger as well" again provided bogus information,
    solely to once more allow you to recommend the poor choice of Li-Ion
    rechargeable batteries. I'm glad that you now realize that a
    "little" solar charger would be insufficient. Perhaps one of my
    Now you're hallucinating. Four good AA NiMH are widely available
    in stores for between $8 and $10. Half that from some mail order
    outlets. The "few Li-Ion pack" necessary to get a thousand shots
    will usually require 3 or 4 packs, and there's no way you can get
    decent quality, reliable Li-Ion packs for anything near that price.
    Most shops that sell them have a starting price of about $15 each,
    and they might be considerably more expensive, depending on the
    battery. It's a little less expensive from some internet/mail order
    outlets, but there's the risk of getting low quality batteries.

    You've evidently forgotten that the OP is interested in getting
    another camera because it might save several ounces of weight. But
    you've never been one to put other's desires ahead of your own. :)

    And if the OP wants to take a 2,000 shots (or more) on his/her
    long trip, that would require carrying 56 or 100 rolls of film (36
    exp. vs 20 exp.). Ignoring the additional processing expense upon
    return, how many pounds/kilograms do you think that would add to the
    rucksack? How you manage to sustain this level of idiocy is simply
    amazing. You never fail to disappoint! <g>
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2006
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